New York City

I hate New York

I’m kind of out of the travel-writing mode, seeing as how I’m not traveling now, nor have I in about two years. But you’d think that, living in New York, I could still make some witty observations on the culture here, right?

I hate New York. I mean, I don’t hate it, because I like that Insomnia Cookie lives here and I appreciate that a nice man on a bicycle will bring me sushi within 30 minutes of ordering it, which I can do pretty much anytime with my handy-dandy Seamless app, and I like that I can get any kind of food or drink I could think of here. Basically, I like New York’s food options.* But the city itself… meh.

First of all, New York is dirty. It is disgusting. The poles to hold on to in the subway cars are always slimy. Like they’ve been coated in petroleum jelly. Explain that to me. And people seem to have no qualms about this. Hand on the pole, hand in your mouth, hand on your food, hand on the pole, on your cell phone, on your child’s face, on the pole. It’s super gross. Plus, it just stinks generally, wherever you go.

You can see the grease.

You can see the grease.

People say New Yorkers are rude. After being here for a year, I think I can fairly say that that is not true. I am on the side of most New Yorkers when I say tourists are rude. Not only rude, but in the way. Even if New Yorkers were rude, you try living here and getting to work in one of the biggest tourist destinations in America while some oblivious tourist tries to take a picture of Times Square with his iPhone.

At the same time, why do we allow ourselves to live in a place that makes us so hateful to people, so hateful in fact that the rumor going around about New Yorkers for the past forever is that they’re rude? I mean, what’s the excuse? (I’m not talking about born-and-raised New Yorkers. Stay where you want to, damn it. You’re allowed to believe that New York is the greatest city in the world, because it’s where you’re from.) There are people who believe that Oologah, Oklahoma is the best small town ever and that it’s completely acceptable to swim in its lake. So we’re all allowed our delusions.

But if you’re an implant, probably from the Midwest or the South (hey, neighbor) and you complain about living in New York and how it makes you callous and impatient, I have only this to say: you do it to yourself.

And why? New York is not the greatest city in the world. It is not the greatest city in America. Nothing compares, for sure: New York is New York and that’s all you have to say. But, come on. Do you really need to work in midtown Manhattan? Couldn’t you do your job, and have a better quality of life, somewhere else?

I just don’t understand the draw. Me, I never planned on staying. At 14 I fantasized about living here, not knowing anything about what it’s like to live here and expecting, foolishly, to work in a giant publishing house and wear expensive suits (though in 14-year-old Lauren’s head, they weren’t expensive, they were just pretty) and wear equally pretty/expensive shoes all over the streets of Manhattan, nary a bunion nor blister in sight, and so I thought I’d try to go for it.

That didn’t happen, which is fine, because I realized I really hate heels and I can’t deal with the “energy” here. Why the constant hurry?

I ask, but I think I know why. It’s because everyone’s in a hurry, and you have to be too. It’s like going to a crowded bar and yelling to talk to your friends because it’s so loud. You hate loud bars. But now you’re yelling in a bar, so you’re the asshole you hate.

Or like going to an airport and thinking about how much you hate airports because everyone tries to line up before the boarding call even though you all have assigned seats but then you remember that baggage space is limited so you start to line up so you don’t have to check your bag at the gate even though it’s actually really convenient to check your bag at the gate because you get it back at the gate and don’t have to deal with pulling it through the aisles and hitting all the assholes who are already sitting (who, by the way, look at you like you’re their biggest annoyance because you’re boarding the plane after they’ve gotten comfortable because they got in the boarding call line first like a jerk) or lifting it above your head to put it in storage while people crowd you and stare at you and you worry about dropping it on someone.

It’s like that: living in New York is like complaining about all of the situations you hate, like political apathy and ignorance and impatience and laziness, and then participating in all of those things because sometimes it’s just all you can do to stay sane, but mostly, comfortable.

*And I didn’t even mention Shake Shack, but I also love it for Shake Shack.

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New York City neighborhood bulletin

Men on the Street (STFU)

While I was walking down 59th street today to go to the 6 train and head home, I saw a group of about five guys surrounding a parked car, standing in the street and on the sidewalk, joking, laughing. I then noticed that their jeers were directed not within the group, but outside of it, to the woman walking in front of me. It was her they were yelling at.

“Hey! HEY!” they yelled, laughing at her avoidance as she kept looking at her phone and walking straight ahead, pretending she couldn’t hear them. Then one of the guys stepped in front of her, put out his hand in a gesture to say STOP, and she finally stumbled a bit to see what he was doing, and then he mimed rolling out a carpet for her to walk on.

She never reacted.

Once the train made it into the station after I stood on the hundred-degree platform for about five minutes, I closed my book, wiped the sweat off my face, and suddenly realized it was Saturday and remembered why I don’t visit Manhattan on the weekends. The train cars were packed, and so were the platforms, and this was going to be miserable. I thought about waiting for the next train, but it was going to be at least another five minutes, and it would be the same situation, so I just stepped on, balancing in the few inches of space available between the established passengers and the door. It closed, and I moved to an open space by the pole.

Sweaty Subway

Pretty much

Whatever guy was standing behind me sighed forcefully, blowing the hair on the top of my head. “Bro, it is TIGHT in here,” he said to his friend, laughing. I realized I was standing in between this douchey duo. “Tiiiiiiight!” I then felt a shift behind me, followed by pressure on my ass from what I felt like might be exactly what I didn’t want it to be. I moved a bit to make some space between me and this diptard behind me. At 51st street, diptard’s friend said his goodbyes between several unnecessary uses of the words “bro” and “dude,” and I moved to the other side of the pole and stood underneath an old man in a hat. He stood still, resting his eyes, and I figured I was now in a better position.

A few seconds into our journey to 42nd street, the train stopped. It was the longest time I’ve ever been stopped in the car of a subway train, and I kind of started to freak out a bit given the crowd. I started wondering how people would start reacting once they realized the train might be stuck indefinitely. While I’m entertaining myself with these thoughts, I catch the eye of diptard, who smiles at me. I do not smile back. I look away. Then I look down. I try to figure out where to look so I don’t have to make eye contact with this guy who I’m pretty sure earlier took advantage of the complete lack of personal space available on the train. But sure enough, a minute or two later, while the train was still stopped, I catch his eye again. He smiles again. I do not.

By this time, the old man I’m standing under, who had been praying quietly to himself while the train was stopped, had started to sing under his breath.

The train starts moving down the track again, and the old man stops singing and looks up, surveying the train and its many passengers.

We arrive at 42nd street and I get out, squeezing between people stalled, looking left and right, ducking under the arm of a tall man holding onto his girlfriend, apparently convinced that she will be swept away by the throng of people if he lets go.

I go down the stairs to the passageway that leads to the 7, and suddenly, some guy starts talking to me.

“Excuse me, miss.” I realize it’s diptard. I turn away and keep walking. “I couldn’t help but notice on the train that you have the most beautiful brown eyes I’ve eve–” I cut him off. I put my hand up in his face and said, flustered, frustrated, disgusted, “THANK YOU– I don’t want– just– get away.” At this point, I stopped walking so that he wouldn’t be escorting me down this disgusting, hot, subway platform. He says, “Alright, no problem,” with the confidence of someone who’s just had a woman tell him to get away from her, which, for many men, is unfortunately about as much confidence as they ever have, because the kind of guy who will rub up against you in the subway and breathe on your head and smile at you twice after he’s tried to catch your eye and gotten no response and STILL comes up and tries to hit on you doesn’t really care about the reaction he gets from women. At least, he doesn’t care if it’s encouraging. The more uncomfortable she is, the better, apparently.Douchey

As I watch him walk away from me, I notice that he’s wearing a sleeveless undershirt. Like everyone, he’s sweating. He’s gross. Like everyone. It’s a disgusting, muggy day in New York, and the subway is the worst place you could be. And yet, he hit on me. Which makes me wonder, what did he think was going to happen? The New York underground in the summer brings out the worst in everyone. You’re not going to make any kind of move on someone you like in this scenario. So why come up to me? What is the desired — or even expected — outcome?

Finally in Queens, walking down the street, I see a group of four guys talking. Two are sitting on a stoop and two are standing on the sidewalk, facing them. They are taking up the entire sidewalk, forcing me to walk through the group. And I know they’re going to say something. Because a group of men always says something.

As I’m passing the last guy, he says, “You are looking beautiful today.”

 

I wanted to turn around and say: Do you say that to every single woman who walks in front of you? Why? Why do you feel the need to say something to a woman just because she’s alone? Why do you feel the need to say something when you’re with your friends, especially? And if you hadn’t said something, could I have just walked by unbothered, or would someone have fulfilled the obligation of every shithead guy on the street to make women feel uncomfortable?

I wanted to say: It is not your duty nor your right to comment on how I look just because you can see me.

I wanted to say: Stop saying that kind of shit to women on the street. They don’t like it.

I wanted to ask what he wanted to happen in that scenario. I have never once heard of or seen a woman stop in her tracks, grateful for the catcalls (no matter what this article says). I’ve never seen a short fling or a longterm romance blossom from one stranger claiming the other was looking good on the street. So that can’t be what he expects.

But there’s no point to asking; I know the answer to the question. To look cool in front of my friends. To make you feel uncomfortable. To make myself feel stronger/better/more manly by exercising the power that I have as a man (especially with my friends here to back me up) over some woman who’s walking alone on her way home.